Baseball madness

Baseball madness

That glazed expression is the result of two beers before dinner. And those tiny plastic umbrellas? No, it is not raining. It is a fan tribute for a home run at the Swallows baseball game in Jingu Stadium. Anyone who knows me could be surprised seeing me at a ball game, but I was invited and, well, it’s Japan, so why not?

My pal encouraged me to sit in the cheap seat bleachers to fully enjoy the rowdy fans. It was a packed night because the opponents were the very popular Hanshin Tigers from Osaka. The stadium is divided right to left for each team’s fans, and we sat in the Swallows section. Although the rules are the same, the atmosphere is very different.

On our side, there were many plastic bats rhythmically beating, team jerseys and towels, general chants and player-specific chants (including a version of “Oh Canada” for one foreign player, and “ikemen” for one of the Japanese players), a few horns, some very large flags, and beer vendors in neon clothes with kegs strapped to their backs. While the Swallows fans have their plastic mini-umbrellas, the Tigers have large yellow balloons which they release into the sky at the 7th inning. A Japanese fan in the Swallows stands complained that it produces a lot of trash.

This fan in front of us was very friendly, proud of his team and their foreign players, and eager to lend us his dancing umbrella. Despite his super-butch appearance, I liked how he explained his “ikemen” chant (“because he’s sexy”), and that he came to the game with his buddy and the hugest pink and white sports bag I have ever seen.

Swallows fan

No smoking on Nakano sidewalks

No smoking on Nakano sidewalks

Nakano’s municipal government prohibits smoking on the sidewalk in its commercial district (as does Shinjuku and other parts of Tokyo). At first, I found this odd, given that smoking is freely permitted in restaurants, coffee shops and bars. This ban has nothing to do with public health or the dangers of second-hand smoke. Rather, it is about litter. Near the train station, there are several designated outdoor smoking areas with large ashtrays. This focus on keeping public areas clean extends to another only-in-Japan phenomenon, the personal, portable ashtray, which many smokers carry with them so that they do not leave their butts on the ground. This concern with public space and others is a sharp contrast to the dozens of butts that always decorate my front sidewalk and garden in San Francisco; most, without a doubt, find their way into storm drains and the bay. In Japan you rarely see any public trash cans or public litter; the expectation is that you must take your trash with you and properly dispose of it yourself.

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